The Art of Self-Destruction

Posted by Dan | Posted in Blog, Mental Health | Posted on 17-09-2011

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In which Dan questions whether he’s a sociopath.

I lost one of my best friends the other day.

She didn’t die, although based on the way I’ve reacted to her being cut so wholly and abruptly from my life, it feels as if she has. I lost her because I told the truth, and in so doing betrayed a secret she had entrusted me with. I firmly believed — and for the most part still believe — that I did what I did to help her. That it was my duty as a friend to do it.

Here’s the story in a nutshell:

She has been in love obsessed with a man for a number of years, but has never told him how she feels. The obsession has grown progressively worse over time, yet instead of confronting it she has fallen ever deeper under its spell. From what I understand through many of the things she has told me over the past year or so, this obsession has taken an increasing hold over her life: the smallest comment from him determines whether she spends the day in ecstasy or agony. Recently she was rendered speechless at a party because someone with a similar hairstyle to The Boy entered the room.

As a friend, I recognised this was not healthy. After talking to her a lot about her situation it became increasingly and consistently clear that this infatuation wasn’t going to go away of its own accord, and that she was never going to act on it. In her own words, she would rather cling onto the hope [that he loves her back] than announce the truth and risk learning that he doesn’t.

So I told him. I put myself in his shoes and wrote a message that I could envisage myself receiving out-of-the-blue. I told the full truth as I understand it: I didn’t pander to ambiguity and play the “playground courtship” card of subtly hinting and testing the water; I just told him straight. I imagined myself as the recipient and wrote the message with that in mind. Essentially my message was: “I know this may come as a shock to you, but that’s no reason to freak out. A friend of yours likes you as more than a friend: she’s an incredible person and you should feel very honoured. Here’s her number. If you might be interested then drop her a text or something. But if you aren’t interested in that way, please do the honourable thing and tell her so, because this infatuation will only get worse and only you have the power to break this spell.”

 

 

I knew eventually she’d find out. And I knew she would initially be embarrassed, but believed ultimately she would be thankful for finally putting the truth out there. After all, this isn’t high school. We don’t have to play by the old childish rules of “once he knows I like him I have to flatly deny it” or any of that utter bullshit.

My ideal scenario — the way I had dreamt it — was that she’d excitedly tell me a few days later that he’d texted her and they were now regularly talking… the romance ball would finally get rolling and her life would be amazing.

Sadly that didn’t happen: he never replied or even acted on my message, and it’s entirely possible he didn’t even read it. But eventually I told her what I did because I can’t lie or keep secrets. When she asked me to send her a copy of the message I did so.

As I said previously, I knew there was a good chance she’d be initially annoyed and embarrassed. But I believed she would ultimately look beyond emotion and see the bigger picture. The way she actually reacted was… a lot more extreme. She excommunicated me and completely cut me out of her life. I was also set on by her attack dog (“BFF”?) who sent me a string of beautiful DMs on Twitter, including such gems as: “You absolute cunt. I have never trusted you. I’ve been on to you since day one. You pine after [friend] like a dog in heat and this was your attempt to get rid of the competition.” Some people are just lovely.

 

Now here’s where we get deep.

I have since described what happened to a number of friends to get their opinion. While I have had a few “She’s overreacting; she’ll realise that eventually” responses, the vast majority have stopped me before I’ve even finished the story and said “WHOAH! You never get involved in a girl’s love life!” When I ask why, explanations have been scarce: generally either the uninformative “It’s just not done” or the slightly more insightful, but still illogical, “When it comes to matters of the heart, don’t think rationally.”

The fact that I so grossly underestimated my friend’s reaction, and the way my actions were perceived, worries me. Why was I not able to see what I was planning to do as a bad idea?

In the past I’ve been scolded for my lack of empathy: I tend not to factor in emotion when solving problems as they’re a fleeting and often irrational element. I always focus on logic and “the bigger picture”. This annoyed my last girlfriend no end, as I would retort to arguments calmly and rationally rather than screaming at her, which she later admitted she’d rather I do as it would show I have feelings.

Am I a sociopath?

Nobody is issued an instruction manual entitled “Dealing With Other People” upon birth. It’s a skill we acquire over time through experience. Having been alive now for a quarter of a century, the fact that I’m still able to make such a monumental error in judgement — one that I still can’t fully comprehend as wrong even after losing a best friend — is actually scaring me.

 

Ky, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry.

I never meant to hurt you.

Comments (4)

You’re not a sociopath; you just have a very analytical personality and so you give logic precedence over emotion.

What Winskill said. You aren’t a sociopath; it’s just that you occasionally place ideals above reality and then forget which one you actually have to live in.The point where it all went tits up was when you acted on your friend’s behalf without your friend’s consent or knowledge. In theory, it was a wonderful, lovely, gallant and heroic thing you were doing, but that’s because you were viewing your actions through your own eyes, with all the inner-monologue that that entails. After every word you typed, you could sigh pleasantly because you knew you were doing a Good Thing.And that’s great. Honestly, truly, beautifully great. More people should do Good Things more often. But not in these situations. Not when there’s so much ambiguity sloshing about the place and you aren’t actually, directly involved and there’s such a high risk of damage. You say your friend told all about her attraction to this guy, but everyone who has ever been in a similar scenario knows full well that she didn’t. There is no way you could understand the full scope of her emotional attatchment to this dude without actually being her, and so to take the comparatively small amount of knowledge you had and use it to do something like this was an invasion of her privacy. Like, massively.

You kind of sacrificed this friendship on the altar of honesty, and you believe that if everyone was completely honest all the time, everything would be wonderful. Well, honesty should be tempered by trust, and that’s the thing you broke last night. There’s a Blake line I could quote here, but I won’t because it’s early and I have yet to have my Pretentious Cockend Flakes. She trusted you with secrets that you didn’t keep. At the most basic level, with all good intentions pushed to the side, that is a Bad Thing. Not telling the truth the whole time is not, necessarily, a Bad Thing. It stops Russia getting pissed off at America and bombing us all. It stops my nephew from drinking the horrible poison kept in the bottle with “Jack Daniels” on the label. And it lets someone live out their fantasy in a way that won’t embarrass them, or cause them to face the reality that maybe he’s just not interested.

That being said, it was a theoretically lovely thing you tried to do, and you’re a lovely guy. Apologise again, if you can, without explanation. And then, in future try to not let your utopia come crashing down into your reality and start making shit explode like Michael Bay got drunk on set.

@therealcarew Carew, I need to hire you to be my inner monologue. Mine is clearly not cut out for understanding people. What are your rates?

(Thank you)

In all honesty Dan, I would have (and probably, on some level, already have done) the same thing. Your main concern was your friend’s happiness, which was depleting with every moment she obsessed over this boy. Still even now, after losing her friendship, I wouldn’t reconsider my action if I were you. As much as it obviously mortified her to know that this boy didn’t feel the same, surely it is better for her that she can now move on, work towards forgetting him and perhaps begin to like someone new? Her anger towards you is only an initial reaction, because she wants to blame somebody for the pain she’s feeling over what she considers to be a lost opportunity. With time, she’ll come to realise that there really was no opportunity at all if she wasn’t willing to ‘make the move’ (or whatever you young kids are calling it these days), and that you gave her more of an opportunity than she had allowed herself. At the moment you’re playing the role of Scapegoat, because she’s upset that things didn’t turn out the way she’d hoped. Of course she has a right to be upset, but she has nobody to focus her anger on other than you right now. Being a female, I can vouch that we sometimes need to blame a guy for our shortcomings. Nothing will ever be our fault, and I can promise you that. It’s something that all guys just have to live with ;).

You shouldn’t feel like you’ve done something wrong here, Dan. Your friend doesn’t want to face that her feelings aren’t reciprocated (which I repeat, is fair enough), and so she will blame anyone who had any sort of impact. I believe that if you two were very close, she will eventually come to forgive you, and perhaps even thank you for ending the charade that she had forced herself to believe in. I for one would much rather live in reality than in a false hope, and so I see no fault in your attempt to make things better for her.

It was a brave thing to do, but she’ll come around when she has overcome the initial heartbreak of the situation. As Carew said, apologise again. If nothing comes of it, remind her every so often that you’re still there. If there is no hope of recovery, please don’t beat yourself up over it. You did the right thing, and unfortunately you suffered for it.

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